Happy Easter everyone! After the contemplation, the watching and the mourning the conclusion of Holy week is a great big celebration. I told you about a few memories from my days at Dehon in Good Friday’s blog and today I get the joy of telling you about the Easter Vigil.
Saturday was the day of anticipation. We’d all prepare our biggest and best ideas for the celebratory mass that started late in the evening and would go on past midnight. We would always start the mass in complete darkness we’d then we’d move on, I can’t remember the precise order but I think next We lit the Easter bonfire and lit the giant, prettily decorated paschal candle from it. Here’s an image I found online to show you what I mean:
Then we’d re-enact the escape from Egypt. Always a drama, sometimes running through the dark gardens, other times crawling through a tunnel to the A-Team theme tune..no really…and that was only the beginning of the excitement.
We’d do the creation story too, I remember psychedelic dancing flowers for that one, I told you, these were services like none I’ve experienced before or since. It was like a little potted history of what came before Jesus. It built up the excitement for the visit to the tomb. I still remember the excitement rolling in my stomach as I anticipated what came next.
We’d go to the location of the tomb, where we’d left Jesus the day before at the end of the passion play. The most memorable of tombs was at the front of the building, we went over and we saw that it was empty, that the cloths were strewn about and that Jesus wasn’t there. We watched the women as they discovered this and then, they ran to the disciples say ‘He’s alive!’ and then the women and the disciples ran among us, the crowd shouting ‘He’s alive!’ and hugging people.
We were soon all doing it! Shouting ‘He’s alive’ and hugging one another and dancing round with pure joy and elation. It was so real to us. It wasn’t just a reading of old fashioned words in a monotone. It was real. The joy was electric and I’ll always remember it.
What else did we do? We renewed baptismal vows, and water was blessed. I remember one year I was in that particular group and for some reason (I have no idea why now, lack of sleep probably influenced the decision) we decided to do it in a boat. In which we gave people plates with saints names on. We renewed the baptismal vows (renouncing evil and all that) and then took the olks through to paradise. For this we had people walking through a shallow pan of freezing water (bare foot) into paradise…a few people holding hairdryers to dry their feet.
It made sense at the time!!!!
And my very favourite bit was the mass at the end. The group I loved being in the most was the one that prepared the chapel for the celebration. We would decorate the chapel in party style with flowers, plants, posters, ribbons, pretty matierial, you name it we used it. The chapel would be transformed in a bust of colour and life. I loved that. Here’s a few pics of the actual decorated chapel at Dehon:
So whenever Easter comes I’m ready for a party. I’ve been disappointed over the years by boring and staid Church celebrations. I remember the first Easter I spent at my last long term church, I’d been attending for a little while and I noticed beside me a pile of tambourines and maracas. I decided to grab a tambourine to join in the songs…I had a fabulous time, but I drew stares and grumbles from the congregation around me. I didn’t try it again, I can tell you.
But The Easter celebration should be about noise and joy and love and jubilation. Jesus is alive! He conquored death and opened up Heaven to all us horrid, dirty sinners. Party today like you’re preparing for the eternal party in Heaven. Have fun, laugh, jump, play the tambourine even if you’re the only one doing it. Today we celebrate the central miracle of our faith, let’s have some fun with it!
Last night I went to church for the beginning of the celebration and St Agnes didn’t let me down. Look at the lights!
The darkness is being pierced,soon the Son will rise and we’ll be bathed in glorious light.
The St Agnes Paschal Candle